The Sounds of WOXY 97X: The Best of 80s College Rock
In 2015 I shared a 1985 Cincinnati Enquirer article about pioneering Ohio alternative radio station WOXY 97X. Unable to get 1985 off my mind, I now present a companion piece: five mixes, totaling fourteen hours and 214 tracks, that illustrate what the station sounded like that year. (You can listen via the embedded players in this post or on the Mixcloud website.)
Thirty years on, it’s hard to contextualize how far beyond the pale it was to hear these artists on commercial radio in America’s heartland at a time when the charts were dominated by Bruce Springsteen, Phil Collins and Tina Turner. Nowadays even your mom probably likes something by R.E.M. but in 1985 they were still two years away from breaking into widespread awareness. (The Cure were four years away; Depeche Mode, five. The Pixies weren’t even a seed of a band until 1986.) 97X was also first in its market to play songs that would later cross over to Top 40 radio, like “Walk Like An Egyptian”.
It’s a cliché that the ’80s was a bad decade for music. Since I had 97X, my opinion couldn’t be more different: I’m still captivated today by the range of unexpected sounds that came from my radio back then, most of which holds up strikingly well.
So here, warts and all, is a time capsule of “The Future of Rock and Roll”. Some tracks from 1984 are included for historical accuracy; they were still in rotation at the time, and included on the annual list of listener favorites compiled by the station. A handful of tracks are relatively unique to the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky region, and even unique to 97X itself (like “Black Concert Tee Shirt” by Chem-Dyne, a garage punk band featuring two of the station’s DJs).
What really went on there? We only have this excerpt…
The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985: Part I
- Fishbone, “? (Modern Industry)”
- Kate Bush, “Hounds Of Love”
- Game Theory, “She’ll Be A Verb”
- Lone Justice, “Ways To Be Wicked”
- Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians, “My Wife And My Dead Wife”
- Royal Crescent Mob, “Get Off The Bus”
- The Fall, “Cruiser’s Creek”
- Kid Creole & The Coconuts, “Endicott”
- The Golden Palominos, “Boy (Go)”
- Hüsker Dü, “Makes No Sense At All”
- Paul Hardcastle, “19”
- Suzanne Vega, “Marlene On The Wall”
- Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, “So In Love”
- The Bolshoi, “Happy Boy”
- UB40 with Chrissie Hynde, “I Got You Babe”
- The Truth, “Exception Of Love”
- U2, “Bad (Live)”
- Stan Ridgway, “Drive, She Said”
- Brian Brain, “Fun With Music”
- Tones On Tail, “Go!”
- The Replacements, “Bastards Of Young”
- The Dukes Of Stratosphear [XTC], “My Love Explodes”
- Lene Lovich, “Breakin’ The Rules (What Do You Do When Opposites Attract)”
- This Mortal Coil, “Kangaroo”
- Public Image Ltd., “Rise”
- The Damned, “Grimly Fiendish”
- X, “Burning House Of Love”
- The Pogues, “Sally MacLennane”
- Stephen Duffy, “Icing On The Cake”
- Bryan Ferry, “Slave To Love”
- Lords Of The New Church, “Method To My Madness”
- Screamin’ Sirens, “Mr. T Luv Boogie”
- The Three O’Clock, “Her Head’s Revolving”
- The Colour Field, “Pushing Up Daisies”
- The Jesus & Mary Chain, “Just Like Honey”
- Red Math, “The Wall Of Insects”
- Sting, “Fortress Around Your Heart”
- The Rave-Ups, “Positively Lost Me”
- Talking Heads, “Road To Nowhere”
- Jane Siberry, “Mein Bitte”
- The Cure, “Close To Me”
- Guadalcanal Diary, “Watusi Rodeo”
- The Stranglers, “Skin Deep”
- The Dead Milkmen, “Bitchin’ Camaro”
- Gene Loves Jezebel, “Desire”
- Shriekback, “Nemesis”
The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985: Part II
- Mojo Nixon And Skid Roper, “Jesus At McDonalds”
- Simple Minds, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”
- Big Audio Dynamite, “The Bottom Line”
- Perfect Jewish Couple, “Step Back”
- Cocteau Twins, “Aikea-Guinea”
- King, “Love & Pride”
- Dead Kennedys, “M.T.V. Get Off The Air”
- Aztec Camera, “Jump”
- Scritti Politti, “Perfect Way”
- Nick Lowe And His Cowboy Outfit, “I Knew The Bride (When She Used To Rock ‘N’ Roll)”
- ‘Til Tuesday, “Voices Carry”
- New Order, “Love Vigilantes”
- Killing Joke, “Eighties”
- The Smiths, “The Headmaster Ritual”
- Malcolm McLaren, “Madam Butterfly (Un Bel Di Vedremo)”
- Camper Van Beethoven, “Take The Skinheads Bowling”
- Todd Rundgren, “Something To Fall Back On”
- Bronski Beat, “Smalltown Boy”
- The Waterboys, “The Whole Of The Moon”
- Squirrel Bait, “Sun God”
- The Bangles, “Walk Like An Egyptian”
- Nik Kershaw, “The Riddle”
- Dead Or Alive, “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”
- Time Zone, “World Destruction”
- China Crisis, “The Highest High”
- Wire Train, “Last Perfect Thing”
- ABC, “Be Near Me”
- Book Of Love, “Boy”
- The Nails, “Let It All Hang Out”
- Oingo Boingo, “This Bud’s For You”
- Depeche Mode, “Shake The Disease”
- Godley & Creme, “Cry”
- Butthole Surfers, “Moving To Florida”
- The Power Station, “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”
- The Armoury Show, “Castles In Spain”
- Alison Moyet, “Invisible”
- Chem-Dyne, “Black Concert Tee Shirt”
- The Alarm, “Strength”
- Squeeze, “Last Time Forever”
- Artists United Against Apartheid, “Sun City”
- INXS, “This Time”
- The Cramps, “Surfin’ Dead”
- General Public, “Never You Done That”
- Violent Femmes, “Black Girls”
The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985: Part III
- R.E.M., “Can’t Get There From Here”
- Eurythmics, “Would I Lie To You?”
- Vitamin Z, “Burning Flame”
- Fear, “More Beer”
- Black Flag, “Drinking And Driving”
- SPK, “Flesh And Steel”
- Duran Duran, “A View To A Kill”
- The Del-Lords, “Get Tough”
- Bruce Cockburn, “Call It Democracy”
- Tears For Fears, “Shout”
- Adam Ant, “Vive Le Rock”
- Beastie Boys, “She’s On It”
- Siouxsie & The Banshees, “Cities In Dust”
- The Style Council, “Walls Come Tumbling Down!”
- The Screaming Blue Messiahs, “I Want Up”
- The Coward Brothers, “The People’s Limousine”
- The Danse Society, “Say It Again”
- The Libertines, “Everybody Wants To Be My Sister”
- Go West, “We Close Our Eyes”
- The Blow Monkeys, “Forbidden Fruit”
- Jane Wiedlin, “Blue Kiss”
- David Rostamo, “Culture Vulture”
- The Dream Academy, “Life In A Northern Town”
- Green On Red, “Time Ain’t Nothing”
- a-Ha, “Take On Me”
- Dire Straits, “Money For Nothing”
- Sharpe & Numan, “Change Your Mind”
- Midnight Oil, “Best Of Both Worlds”
- Everything But The Girl, “When All’s Well”
- Thompson Twins, “Lay Your Hands On Me”
- Warsaw Falcons, “Skinny Anklebone”
- Ultravox, “Love’s Great Adventure”
- Howard Jones, “Things Can Only Get Better”
- Utopia, “Zen Machine”
- Echo & The Bunnymen, “Bring On The Dancing Horses”
- Hooters, “She Comes In Colors”
- Animotion, “Obsession”
- Wang Chung, “To Live And Die In L.A.”
- The Long Ryders, “Looking For Lewis And Clark”
- Prefab Sprout, “When Love Breaks Down”
- Propaganda, “Duel”
- Lloyd Cole And The Commotions, “Perfect Skin”
- Prince And The Revolution, “Raspberry Beret”
- Jason & The Scorchers, “White Lies”
- Paul Young, “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down”
- Nina Hagen, “Universal Radio”
The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985: Part IV
- Ministry, “Everyday (Is Halloween)”
- 10,000 Maniacs, “Can’t Ignore The Train”
- Translator, “Come With Me”
- Level 42, “Something About You”
- Minutemen, “The Glory Of Man”
- Valley Of Kings, “Flesh And Blood”
- Fine Young Cannibals, “Johnny Come Home”
- Colourbox, “Just Give ‘Em Whiskey”
- Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, “Tupelo”
- Rank & File, Sound Of The Rain”
- Tiny Lights, “Singing At Your Door”
- The Untouchables, “Free Yourself”
- Meat Puppets, “Swimming Ground”
- Dexys Midnight Runners, “This Is What She’s Like”
- The Art Of Noise, “Close (To The Edit)”
- The Beat Farmers, “Reason To Believe”
- David Bowie / Pat Metheny Group, “This Is Not America”
- The Clash, “This Is England”
- The Church, “Tantalized”
- X-Teens, “Change Gotta Come”
- Faith No More, “We Care A Lot”
- Toxic Reasons, “Then Came The Rain”
- Falco, “Rock Me Amadeus”
- The Comsat Angels, “Believe It”
- Scott Goddard, “Cowpunk”
- Cabaret Voltaire, “Kino”
- Arcadia, “Election Day”
- Fetchin Bones, “Kitchen Of Life”
- American Music Club, “Tell Yourself”
- Blancmange, “Lose Your Love”
- Zeitgeist, “Translate Slowly”
- The Red Hot Chili Peppers, “True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes”
- Lou Reed, “September Song”
- The Grapes Of Wrath, “Misunderstanding”
- Simply Red, “Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)”
- Oingo Boingo, “Dead Man’s Party”
- Passionnel, “I Think Of You”
- Laurie Anderson, “Sharkey’s Day”
- Madness, “Uncle Sam”
- The Blasters, “Common Man”
- Velvet Elvis, “Still Another Reason”
- Dramarama, “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)”
- Belouis Some, “Imagination”
- Tom Waits, “Jockey Full Of Bourbon”
- Felt, “Primitive Painters”
- The Cult, “She Sells Sanctuary”
The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985: Part V
- The Swimming Pool Q’s, “The Bells Ring”
- The Bongos, “Brave New World”
- Run-D.M.C., “Can You Rock It Like This”
- Raging Fire, “A Family Thing”
- Golden Age, “A House For You And Me”
- Love And Rockets, “Haunted When The Minutes Drag”
- Grace Jones, “Slave To The Rhythm”
- The Chameleons, “Perfume Garden”
- Los Lobos, “Will The Wolf Survive?”
- What Is This, “Chasing Your Ghost”
- Midge Ure, “If I Was”
- The Cucumbers, “Who Betrays Me”
- New Model Army, “Better Than Them”
- The Sisters Of Mercy, “No Time To Cry”
- Jessica Hagedorn & The Gangster Choir, “Tenement Lover”
- The Jazz Butcher, “Big Saturday”
- Rain Parade, “Don’t Feel Bad”
- Bad Manners, “Bang The Drum All Day”
- Clannad, “Closer To Your Heart”
- Hoodoo Gurus, “Bittersweet”
- Dif Juz, “Love Insane”
- Feargal Sharkey, “A Good Heart”
- Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, “Talk About the Weather”
- The Icicle Works, “Seven Horses”
- Let’s Active, “Blue Line”
- The Del Fuegos, “Don’t Run Wild”
- Big Country, “East Of Eden”
- Rhythm Corps, “Two By Two”
- Blue In Heaven, “Sometimes”
- Wall Of Voodoo, “Far Side Of Crazy”
- Katrina And The Waves, “Walking On Sunshine”
- Yello, “Oh Yeah”
Thanks to Craig Froehle for reference material, Jude Hayden for filling in some gaps, Doug and Linda Balogh, and the station’s staff from that era: Dan “Danny Crash” Reed, Robin Plan, Steve Baker and the late Ken “Mr. K” Glidewell.
This is fantastic. I had discovered some of these as I was graduating high school in 1985, arriving in college (with a “college rock” radio station) just in time.
Great trip down memory lane. Yes, that’s exactly what 1985 sounded like for me.
Brings back memories of working in a lab in Sharonville, OH. I still have OXY t shirts and key rings from various give aways. Finally had to sell my 87 Toyota with the OXY bumper sticker
For 20 years I saved one of the early blue pill-shaped bumper stickers and finally, in 2005, put it on a car I expected to own for a good long time. I was immediately rear-ended and lost that bumper. Hubris.
Mark, I had a pink 97X sticker on my car and got rear ended. When I got my next car I put a blue one on it and was rear-ended a week later. I still have one of the blue ones, but it is safely encased in a WOXY shadowbox.
I took my last woxy.com stickers that I had and stuck it to some magnetic material
and then cut it out and now it’s a magnetic sticker on my frig 🙂 I guess this post is dead now but the music is awesome
Oh, how I miss 97X. Nothing like it. Driving from U of Cincinnati up to see my best friend and my boyfriend (now husband!) at Miami U, blasting 97X the whole way. Soundtrack of my youth. Sigh…
I was a freshman in Oxford fall of 85, those tunes were literally the sound track of my life. A lot of those tunes have never left me, a few I can live without, but the memories of those days and nights tuned in to WOXY are priceless.
An Oxford native teenager of the 80s and eventually a Miami Grad, WOXY was a big part of my life. Those were the days!
In Baltimore, there was a family-owned radio station called WHFS that had a free-form format; they used to play all of these wonderful songs. They also introduced me to glorious music by David Sylvian. I so miss that station! It was eventually taken over by corporate radio. This kind of music helped me survive and thrive and find myself.
I loved, loved, loved WHFS. Most of the songs on this playlist I heard on ‘HFS. I’m now a DJ on KHUM in Humboldt County, CA, and I program my show in the spirit of free-form WHFS.
I went to GMU in Fairfax, Va. When my fraternity brothers introduced me to WHFS I could wait to turn the radio on. I would keep a pen and paper in my car so I could write down the artist. I would then hit the music store and go to the imports section.
Exactly how I was with WOXY. I once grabbed an ATM receipt to write an artist/song on the back, and kept adding to that same piece of paper in the world’s tiniest handwriting until there was no space left.
Lived in Laurel , worked in Timonium and DC and had it glued to HFS. Friday afternoon drive home with Weasel was the best.
I only discovered WOXY in the late 2000s, when that station was reincarnated as an Internet radio station. I loved it immediately, being in Austin, surprised that there weren’t (and still aren’t) any really great stations here. When they finally moved here, I was stoked. And when they went off air, I just about cried. I wish this station came back so badly!
Love this! I used to listen to 97X a hell of a lot. I still have a couple of tapes that we taped off the stereo from the 90’s that we will still listen to….
Lots of great songs and memories…
Miss WOXY and 97 Xtrabeats
97X is everything. Growing up we didn’t even know how truly progressive and awesome it was. I went from small town Ohio to DC for college and HFS filled the same spot (HFS Festival 10 bands for 10 bucks! Including Counting Crows, James, Henry Rollins and so many more). We need to find some old school 97X DJs and get them places to put out the music. Anybody know where any of them are today?!? I can find the venue and some $$ to put it together…
Dan Reed is still on the air at Philly’s WXPN, as well as co-hosting the Dan And Dan Music Podcast. Robin Plan is in Austin, Steve Baker’s still in Oxford, but sadly Mr. K is no longer with us. Check out the bottom of the post for links to everyone’s Twitter accounts.
I follow some on the Twitter, Robin Plan, Steve (The Baker Man) Baker (now the voice of the Redhawks), Michelle Topham, and the more recent Shiv, Mike Taylor, Matt Sledge, Barb Abney. They are all over the country (and world, Michelle who was my fav in the mid 80’s is in Europe)
Oh MAN!!!!! WOXY was, and still is, my favorite radio station.
I have in my possession several HUNDRED hours of 97X’s Six Packs, in which a band or a topic was the subject of six songs.
They are my most precious audio recordings. How I wish I had won the lottery 20 years ago. WOXY would still be on the air…
Holy cow! I loved the six packs; so much fun to come up with them, or second-guess what songs would be in a set. What would it take to convince you to digitize those and post them on Soundcloud? The promise that I’d be your best friend forever?
And Request the X Night, an hour of taking requests, the rest of the night through the wee hours playing them back.
I moved to Cincinnati in ’86 from coastal VA. It was like stepping into a bad time machine. People in denim jackets with mullets. Record stores full of Iron Maiden and bad classic rock posters. When I met other musicians and mentioned the artists I was into they’d look at me like a confused dog, they had no idea what I was talking about. Then I found 97X, which was a lot like William & Mary’s campus radio, which I had left. Suddenly my soundtrack was back on the right station. I became friends with Doug B but lost track of him a few years after he retired and moved west. Anyone know how he’s doing these days?
Hey, Dennis. I’m afraid I never met Doug but, judging from the photos on his Facebook page, he appears to be enjoying himself; lots of beautiful sunsets over the Pacific. He’s living in Sonoma Co., north of SF.
Remember the Modern Rock 500?!? And I was so proud that my brother was a DJ there for a while.
Of course! If you use Spotify, someone’s put together a fairly comprehensive version of it there: https://open.spotify.com/user/techskirt/playlist/7tgG0499PQ6LihgTDFr4VZ
One note – Royal Crescent Mob’s song is titled Get *On* the Bus, not Get Off the Bus.
While that’s true of the song’s later appearances (like on Omerta and S.N.O.B.), on the original 1985 Land Of Sugar EP it was titled “Get Off The Bus” and can be seen that way on both the back cover and the label to Side 1. Check it out here: https://www.discogs.com/Royal-Crescent-Mob-Land-Of-Sugar/master/605135
I wish the recordings had all the local commercials and DJ banter with it….oh well.
Rumblings from the Big Bush pod has great use of old commercials
Janet Planet, Danny Crash, et al, as a sophmore in HS in ’85 you were everything, (along with Handsome Clem Carpenters “Search & Destroy sur la WAIF en Cincinnati). Dedicated listener here. You changed my world and made it a better place. Danke.
[…] A wonderful post from Mark Griffin: “The Sounds of 97X WOXY, 1985.” […]
My wife, young son and I moved to Oxford during the summer of 1986 because I took a job in the local hospital’s lab. I immediately fell in love with 97X, as it was a refuge from the banality of Cincinnati/Dayton radio. The station was by far the best radio station I had heard since listening to an Indianapolis station in the mid-70s called WNAP. But, the artists I discovered on 97X remain the artists that I continue to listen to this day. Thanks for the great article!
The people are saying it. This wasn’t just a radio station, was it? Thanks so much for sharing this incredible set. I was from Louisville, in Cincinnati for the summer of 1985 for work. WOXY was the sonic wallpaper of my life for three months, always on in my car and back at the apartment. Someone with a clue started piping WOXY through the PA system at work in the morning, at a point, before muzak was turned on. It is no exaggeration to call it a life and senses-enchancing station. I was one of those who hung on it’s every sound.
Oh how I miss WOXY in the 1980’s. I grew up in Blue Ash and didn’t always get the best signal but this station was my soundtrack to new music, old favorites, and concerts. It is such a fabric of who I am.
I went to (a private grade) school across the street from the station during these years… they are linked so much to my youth, thank you for this.
What memories! Class of 87 Talawanda. 97 X the future of Rock n Roll ✌🏼✌🏼✌🏼
Thank you thank you thank you for making these available. Wow! I won a 97x contest in 1994 or 95 and got to introduce Depeche Mode at Riverbend Music Center along with front row tickets. Incredible! WNKU 89.7 morphed into a very close second to 97x and then we lost it last year. It was like losing WOXY all over again… painful.
Very cool memory. I also won a bunch of stuff from the station: tickets to see Tears for Fears at Riverbend on the Songs from the Big Chair tour, records, a digital watch… the benefit of having my ear glued to the radio for as many hours of the day as I could manage. And yeah, it was sad to see WNKU meet that fate.
Thank you! What a great list. I didn’t hear WOXY until ‘92 when I moved to Dayton, and not reliably until ‘94 when I bought a powered antenna just to get them. Though not a listener yet in ‘85, I remember 97X playing many of these songs in the ‘90s and being amazed at the depth of their library. I also loved their commitment to local artists. Attending 97Xposure’s battle of bands at Bogart’s became an annual tradition. I loved that Cincinnati’s own Afghan Whigs’ “Going to Town” ruled the Top 5 at 5 (did I get that one right?) for weeks in summer ‘96. And I discovered two local legends, GBV and Ass Ponys, when my friend won tickets from WOXY in ‘94 (soon after that, both bands weren’t just local legends anymore). 97X played such a great mix of the best modern rock from around the world generously balanced with tri-state area homegrown heroes, many of whom were just beginning to get heard around the world. 97X (…BAM!) truly was (and still is, because none of us will ever forget them) the future of rock and roll.
I thought tears for fears was at kings island during that tour. I saw them.
Hi Sara. I totally misremembered—thanks for the correction. It was Timberwolf. (What I DO remember was being so enthralled by Roland’s guitar—a dark wood Strat with gleaming gold hardware—that I eventually refinished my own guitar in an attempt to emulate it.)
I was but a wee child in the backwaters of Mason when it was still nothing but the town by Kings Island. I loved the new wave sounds on MTV, but nobody in Cincinnati was playing the best stuff on the radio. Then an older classmate told me about 97x. It was hard to get reception, being so close to the giant WLW tower in the middle of town, but if the weather was good and you got the antenna just right, you could enjoy the future of rock n roll right in your room. I wish that I had taped it, but this list brings back a lot of good memories. Thank you.
I was on the faculty at Miami between 1987 and 2002. When I moved into my first apartment in Oxford (Oxford Square on College), I came across WOXY (I think the first song I heard was Elvis Costello and the Attractions “Green Shirt.” I don’t think that I changed the station for 15 years. It was a GREAT radio station. Steve Baker and Julie Maxwell bickering in the morning. Local Lixx. Dreadloxx. Mr. K. Still have a 40 Amp Fuse key ring and a Depeche Mode frisbee. Ah memories.
Yes! The Baker-Maxwell banter was the best!
Thanks for putting this together. Just made a rod trip in to Oxford on business and listened to this the whole way. It brought back a lot of great memories of Miami University during which I was exposed to some of the most amazing music that changed my life. One of life’s amazing surprises that such life changing music came out of a small college town in Southwest Ohio and even more amazing that I was lucky enough to be there are that same time!
My pleasure, Jim; so glad you enjoyed the mixes.
Thank you for this. 97X was a huge part of my life. Basically, everything I knew about music I learned from this station. Music determined the circles I ran with, where I hung out, and influenced how I dressed. It shaped who I am.
Really curious if you ever came across the band Defenestration. They were from Norman and released their 1st album (self titled) in ’84-85. Alternative Rock. Fronted by Tyson Meade. I’m working on a film and trying to find any detail of them beyond the norm found on wiki and discos.
I listened to 97X while I lived in Centerville in the mid to late 80s. The music coming from this station changed my tastes for the rest of my life. Very grateful to have something like this in my life and expand out of the hair rock that was so ubiquitous during that time.
I grew up in Jamestown, Ohio, which is in eastern Greene County. I could easily pull in WTUE which ran stale classic rock (and still does) and any number of nauseating new country spots on the dial, but the one I wanted was WOXY. I was alerted to their presence by a good friend of mine in 1986 who asked me if I was familiar with a certain tune being played called, “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver”, by a group called Mission of Burma. Mission of What? He showed me where to tune, and through the static and fuzz came this glorious mess of music that was far superior to anything being played in Dayton. Nighttime was better for listening.
I moved to Austin, TX, in 1998 but kept listening to 97X and followed them to the end. If you’re interested, KUTX 98.9 is an excellent local commercial-free replacement. You get a feel for the Austin music scene (for how long it lasts, who knows) and a taste of modern rock and world music as well. Give it a go, if you’re so inclined.
Listened to Robin Plan late at night in the mid 80s and/or late 80s. She showed me what to aspire to, in terms of what kind of Dj I wanted to be.
This is me: facebook.com/indiepenchant
P.S. listened from NW Hamilton County. Springfield Township.